KILAUEA — Questions about responsible upkeep and safety were voiced at the Kilauea Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday night, as county attorneys explained current legal action to reopen a public access to Kauapea Beach.
Kauai County attorneys Mauna Kea Trask and Adam Roversi updated about 60 attendees at a KNA meeting on the recent suit filed against landowner KAPHA North Shore LLC.
“I’m not against it, but how do we police it?” asked Jackie Yellin, Kilauea resident.
She pointed out the county has an already full plate of responsibilities and she’s not convinced staff members will be able to upkeep policing and maintaining the access.
“If the county can’t be responsible to even take care of the roads, how do I buy what you’re selling?” Yellin asked.
Safety at Kauapea Beach, also known as Secret Beach, was a concern voiced by Yellin and several others.
“It’s one of the more dangerous beaches on the island. Will we have lifeguards?” she said. “We get drownings every year.”
Not all of the island’s beaches have lifeguard stations, only county beach parks, Trask explained, and there are no plans to turn the access into a county beach park.
As far as upkeep, Trask said Kilauea Neighborhood Association is poised to enter into a stewardship agreement with the county to work together on maintenance of the trail.
The community also has concerns about traffic on Kauapea Road, near Lighthouse Road, which leads to the quarter-mile trail that follows a natural gully down to the beach.
The top of the trail is flat with a gradual decline into the valley until it curves and traverses along the bluff before another gradual decline to Pa‘aha‘o Beach, also known as Third Beach.
Pa‘aha‘o Beach was previously used by the community for fishing, gathering and other recreational purposes and has been since at least the 1890s, according to the filed complaint.
Public access was a condition of a 1977 Special Use Permit, but paperwork was filed wrongly in the 70s and that guarantee of public access was lost in the shuffle.
Attorneys and other audience members stressed the purpose of the meeting was to introduce the case to the community.
“These are all concerns the county has considered,” Roversi said. “At the moment, our focus is to establish legal right and after that, there is much to negotiate.”
Kilauea resident Lorraine Newman focused her comments on step one of the project.
“I think what is at issue here is the legal access to what we believe is our right,” Newman said. “Do we not go there and take over (the public access trail) because of the secondary issues?”
She continued: “It’s an old and potent issue. Access is sacred.”
KAPHA North Shore LLC bought the property in November 2011 from Blazer Enterprises, Inc., a Hawaii corporation now dissolved.
The company is owned or controlled by a trust connected to Russian heiress Ekaterina Rybolovleva, daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.
The prior owner blocked the public in the mid-1990s from using the trail, according to the county.
“This has been a concern to the community long before now,” Trask said. “Now, (we have) a perfect storm of county attorneys who are willing to dedicate staff and a mayor (who is) willing.”
He continued: “We’ll take this to court and win or lose, it’ll be resolved.”
A schedule for litigation hasn’t yet been set, but attorneys said these types of cases can take a year or longer to unfold.
“This is going to be a heavy duty case,” Trask said.